Chief Inspector Thomas Lamb investigates the brutal killing of an old man, the subject of a demoniacal local legend, while the Battle of Britain rages in the skies above the English countryside. Haunted by memories of the First World War reignited by the incessant air combat, Lamb follows a twisted trail of evidence including an emotionally disturbed boy's cryptic drawings. The investigation uncovers dark secrets that connect the victim's death to a series of murders. Filled with believable, psychologically complex characters in a vividly evoked historical setting, this superbly written, suspenseful mystery keeps the reader guessing from the very beginning to a startling conclusion.
This is a thrilling read. An evocative debut with a dark secret at its heart, Language of the Dead grips from the beginning and refuses to relinquish its hold until the final page. Based on a real case the novel takes the facts in a new and original direction, providing a thrilling dénouement via some very satisfying twists and turns. I for one can't wait to read more about the adventures of Inspector Lamb and his team in the future.
Stephen Kelly's The Language of the Dead is a gripping mystery set in the middle of the German air raids on Britain in World War Two. Grisly murder, war, the occult, and lively characters with dark secrets all come together in this fine story.
Readers of the wonderful Charles Todd series will recognize the premise of a former soldier-turned-cop affected by the war but debut novelist Stephen Kelly makes this novel both reassuring and fresh. Vivid. Readers will look forward to spending more time with these characters.
The crusty Lamb is a well-conceived character, but what makes the novel work is Kelly’s portrait of the village and the almost palpable sense of menace that comes from the possibility of a Nazi invasion.
Kelly fantastically recreates the claustrophobic mood of England under siege with period details.
Kelly does a good job of juxtaposing the subtle ways the tensions of the crimes combine in all the characters with the tensions of the times. A very promising debut.
Kelly’s strong writing weaves these diverse strands into a cohesive whole. The novel vividly evokes the era and setting. I greatly enjoyed this story and look forward to reading more of Inspector Lamb’s cases in the future. Recommended.
Charles Todd fans will welcome Kelly’s first novel, a superior whodunit set in WWII England. In the summer of 1940, with the Luftwaffe making frequent bombing raids, Det. Chief Insp. Thomas Lamb is naturally worried about his 18-year-old daughter, Vera, who has recently begun working in the south-coast village of Quimby as an air raid warden. Meanwhile, Lamb must investigate the murder of William Blackwell, an elderly farmhand, who was run through the neck with his own pitchfork with a scythe buried in his chest. A milkmaid was dispatched in the same savage manner in 1882, and rumor has it that the dead man was a witch, based on a supposed encounter in 1880 between a 10-year-old Blackwell and a demonic black dog, a story recounted in a book of local legend. Lamb, who’s haunted by his experiences in WWI, is a complex lead meriting further outings. Agent: Joelle Delbourgo, Joelle Delbourgo Associates. (Apr.)
"Charles Todd fans will welcome Kelly's first novel, a superior whodunit set in WWII England." Publishers Weekly
As German bombs rain down on England, all remains fairly quiet in the remote Hampshire village of Quimby. Until its residents start turning up dead. First Will Blackwell, an elderly loner, is found murdered, his death eerily reminiscent of the manner in which suspected witches in the same area were once killed. Adding fuel to the rumor mill, stories circulate that, as a boy, Blackwell made some sort of Faustian pact with a ghostlike black hound. The country cop in charge of investigating, as well as trying to quell the villagers' panic about both the murder and the Germans' impending invasion, is DI Thomas Lamb. Soon after, a young woman who is carrying the illegitimate child of a pilot is also discovered dead, along with the town drunk, who is found in the mill, his skull crushed. With his constituency dropping faster than the Germans can bomb them, it's up to Lamb to solve this perplexing case. VERDICT Fans of well-researched historical mysteries, particularly the work of Charles Todd and Charles Finch, will welcome this solid debut that introduces a complex, driven hero who is both a product of his time and relatable in our modern age. Here's hoping this will be the first of many installments featuring the endearing Lamb.
Bombing runs by the Luftwaffe are only the most obvious sign of lethal conflict in journalist Kelly's fine-grained first novel.July 1940. Despite the proximity of a Spitfire factory, nobody thinks there's anything in the Hampshire village of Quimby that the Führer would want to destroy. So despite nightly blackouts and air-raid sirens and the heartbreaking absence of so many young men, the locals have plenty of leisure to ask who thrust farmhand Will Blackwell's pitchfork through his neck, carved a cross onto his forehead and impaled his scythe in his chest. And who beat pregnant infirmary volunteer Emily Fordham to death along the road to Lipscombe. And who treated farmer Michael Bradford, who'd complained that one of his chickens had been stolen and ritually slaughtered, to more of the same. DCI Thomas Lamb and DS David Wallace, both facing running battles in their private lives, wonder whether and how the crimes are related and what Peter Wilkins, the mute teenager who lives on Lord Jeffrey Pembroke's estate, may know about the case—and may be trying to communicate through his beautifully executed, deeply disturbing drawings of insects. And they can't help wondering too about the villagers' 60-year history of summarily executing innocents thought to be witches. As Lamb and Wallace and resentful DI Harry Rivers probe beneath Quimby's decorous surface for mystery upon mystery—some of them a lot harder to figure out than others—the Blitz is coming closer than they can imagine. Perhaps too many subplots for Kelly to knit together with complete success but by no means too many to keep readers absorbed to the end.